Monday, January 23, 2012

Hey Oscar! What About These Underrated and Overlooked Movies? (aka Awesome Movie Alert!)

With the Oscars quickly approaching, all eyes are on the blockbuster movies of 2011, those that have already won awards at festivals, and those that will win the most coveted of award--an Oscar. But there are other, just as worthy movies that for whatever reason were overlooked and underrated. So okay, only one of the three I listed were released in 2011, making the other two ineligible for awards anyway, but still--these are worth watching. Trust me--they're good.

WARRIOR -- Remember Tom Hardy as the preppy British con-man Eames in Inception? Well, the character he plays in Warrior couldn't be further from Eames in physicality or personality. Mr. Hardy all but disappears as the bitter, angry, rough around the edges MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) fighter Tommy. The movie has some brutal fight scenes, but stick with it--there's a great plot filled with flawed characters (including the always awesome Nick Nolte as Tommy's recovering alcoholic dad), and a showdown in the ring between Tommy and his estranged brother that is as violent as it is heart-breaking.

FISH TANK -- You may have seen Michael Fassbender, well, everywhere last year. He played mutant Magneto in X-Men: First Class; the ever-brooding Rochester in Jane Eyre; a secret sex-addict in Shame; and Carl Jung in A Dangerous Method. Now forget about all those movies for a minute. Are they gone from your memory bank? Good--now go put FISH TANK in your Netflix queue and see the German-born, Ireland-raised Fassbender before he was a hot leading man. Here he plays mysterious boyfriend who gets in a bit of hot water when he gets too cozy with his girlfriend's daughter. The movie is raw and powerful, the ending is completely unpredictable, and Mr. Fassbender's performance--albeit a minor character--rises above the rest and shows a true star on the rise.

THE HIGH COST OF LIVING -- You'd be forgiven for thinking that Zach Braff only does comedy, seeing as he's most famous for the TV show Scrubs and the indie movie Garden State. But he does drama too, and pretty well, in 2010's The High Cost of Living. He plays a small-time drug dealer in Montreal whose whole life changes when he hits a pregnant woman with his car. The movie is life-affirming, touching, and doesn't insult your intelligence with a typical, neatly-wrapped-up Hollywood ending. And Mr. Braff's performance is moving.

Hooked? I thought so. These movies are well worth your time. Go check them out--NOW!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Plots and Heroes Are Easy, It's the Bad Guys That Get Me Every Time

For the past two weeks I've been working on the second book in my Mara Beltane mystery series. Notice I said "working" and not "writing." That's because I'm in brainstorm mode, figuring out the plot and major characters--most notably, the antagonist.

I've got a good handle on the narrative arc and the "good guy" characters. As with the first book, those elements came easily. It's the bad guy who's being a pain in the ass.

I struggled with the antagonist with the first book, too. Every book needs a good guy with a goal and a bad guy that impedes the good guy's progress. That's what gives a book action and plot. I'm proud of THE CITY OF LOST SECRETS, but I do think the antagonist could have been a little stronger, a little more fleshed out. That being said, I need to up the ante with the second book.

I thought I had a lock on who the ultimate baddie would be, but then I realized he's appeared it lots of other books before in my genre, and he's, well, played out. Shame too, because everyone loves to hate the Camerlengo of the Holy Roman Church--the guy responsible for the property and revenue of the Vatican. We love him because of his silent power and his mysterious presence and his ability to run a tight ship. Secretly I think we all want to be that guy. But we hate him because, well, somehow "profit" and "Pope" seem oxymoronic and hypocritical and downright wrong. The papacy shouldn't be a for-profit entity, right? RIGHT? So he was turned into a bad guy because frankly, we didn't know what else to do with him.

But the Camerlengo-as-bad-guy thing is just plain cliche now, so I'll be having none of that in THE CITY OF SACRED BONES. Oh, right. The second book's called THE CITY OF SACRED BONES. Here's a little teaser video:

I've switched gears a bit, let go of the Camerlengo, and latched on to another, better idea for a bad guy. He's connected to the Church, and the Pope, but in a round about way. That's all I'm going to say for now; you'll just have to wait until the book is published to find out who he is. In the meantime, I'll throw you a bone. His official title is "The Custodian." How's THAT for a bad guy name?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Awesome Movie Alert

My husband and I are movie junkies. We don't discriminate as far as genres go; we love all movies but are particularly fond of period historical dramas (me), sci-fi adventure (him) and quirky comedies (both).

We're too cheap and too bothered by people to go to the movies, so we depend on Netflix for our entertainment. Every Friday and Saturday night is Movie Night at our house. We draw the shades, shut off our phones, cuddle on the couch, and immerse ourselves in a two-hour film fantasy. We do this almost every Friday and Saturday night--unless we get distracted by, you know, real life...

Right now our Netflix queue has 23 movies in it, and another 36 are "saved" for future viewing. This weekend we'll be watching "30 Minutes or Less" and "Margin Call." Have you seen them? Are they any good?

Speaking of good movies, here are three I've seen lately that are simply awesome. You should check them out if you haven't already. You'll be hearing more about them in the coming weeks as award season hits.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Another Giveaway: FREE Copy of The City of Lost Secrets

Starting today, you can enter to win a free copy of my novel, THE CITY OF LOST SECRETS from my writer buddy S.M. Boyce's blog. See all the details and enter to win here. It's ridiculously easy to enter; just give her your first name and email address.

Where you're at it, check out her 31 Days of Giveaways contest that my book is a part of. All month long, she's giving away a book a day from fellow writers she's partnered with to help promote writers and their work.

Also while you're at it, check out S.M.'s website; she's a writer too, and pens fantasy and paranormal fiction. She does a lot to promote her fellow writers and is one heckuva gal! Help support her!

If you've already read THE CITY OF LOST SECRETS (thanks! You're awesome!), enter to win a copy for that special reader in your life! Christmas may be over, but there's gotta be someone you know who has a birthday coming up, right?

Thanks for reading and don't forget, the contest ends next Monday 1/16.